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Siem Reap rapper Kea Sokun’s conviction upheld by appeals court

The 23-year-old rapper is facing 18 months in prison

LiFTED | Roger Yiu | 21 Jun 2021

Rappers are no strangers when it comes to being put behind bars for controversial behaviors or criminal activities. Bobby Shmurda has been there. ChinaMac got busted and is trying to change his life. Lil Wayne has been there done that. Yet Cambodian rapper Kea Sokun’s case is a little bit more complicated than just paying his dues.

The 23-year-old Khmer rapper was arrested on September 15, 2020 by the authorities for incitement to commit a felony as two of his tracks, ‘Khmer Land’ and ‘Sad Race,’ went viral on YouTube. ‘Khmer Land’ targeted Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government for its failing economic policies which have led to nationwide economic decline and urged people to stand up against oppression and corruption.

‘Sad Race’ accused the government of ceding territory to Vietnam, an issue often considered taboo given that his ruling Cambodian People’s Party [CPP] was installed in power by Vietnam. On June 16, the Battambang Provincial Appeal Court on Wednesday upheld the young rapper’s conviction, and now he must serve 18 months in jail.

It is not a rare incident for rappers to be convicted by governments for voicing out their opposition, especially in the Asian region. Malaysian rapper Wee Meng Chee, known as Namewee, has been hauled in by police multiple times, including over a song that was deemed blasphemous in the Muslim-majority nation. Thai rapper Hockhacker, leader of Hip Hop group Rap Against Dictatorship was arrested earlier last year for sedition after his group released several tracks voicing out for the support of the ongoing protest against the Thai monarchy.

While Hip Hop is gaining immense popularity in Asia countries, such crackdowns on creative freedom for songwriters and rappers is a worrying trend.